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Former lawmaker Duenwald remembered at funeral

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

HOVEN -- Family, friends and colleagues said their last farewell Friday morning to Jay Duenwald, a tall, strong farmer who gave 40 years of his life to protecting unborn children and along the way became one of South Dakota's foremost opponents of legalized abortion.

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Duenwald, age 76, died Aug. 31. He was known for his refusal to accept no for an answer when he wanted something important, but his will couldn't overcome the Parkinson's disease that forced him into a wheelchair in his final years and ultimately took his life.

Duenwald and his wife, Agnes, raised eight children. He served 12 years in the Legislature and 21 years on the board for the National Right to Life organization.

As an unpaid lobbyist he helped steer the Legislature in 1991 to within one "aye" of approving a ban against abortion as birth control in South Dakota. After his first election to the state House of Representatives in 1996, abortion increasingly became a dominant issue in the Legislature and in state-level political campaigns.

Among the approximately 200 people attending the funeral Mass for Duenwald on Friday at St. Anthony Catholic Church -- the same church where he was baptized -- were Gov. Dennis Daugaard and his wife, Linda, as well as many figures from what the Rev. John Lantsberger described as "the movement for life" and half of a dozen former legislators who served with him.

"He was my mentor," said former Rep. Tom Hackl as he left the cemetery. Hackl now lives at Sioux Falls and was a Hoven resident when he was in the House.

Duenwald's politics in the Legislature were rural South Dakota Republican at its essential: a social conservative who sought more-efficient government, and who supported small communities and schools.

He stood for protecting life from the point of conception. In addition to a variety of abortion regulations, he sponsored the 2000 law that prohibited non-therapeutic research on human embryos.

During his third two-year term in the House, Duenwald was appointed as chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. After moving to the Senate, he became agriculture committee chairman for the 2005 and 2007 terms.

He was well-known in the Legislature and among agriculture organizations for his support of landowner rights and for freedom of farmers and ranchers to produce. He favored more oversight of the state Game, Fish and Parks Department and giving more control of hunting licenses to landowners.

He had his pet projects, too. He so disliked prairie dogs that he once tried to pass a law renaming them "prairie rats." He backed several efforts, all unsuccessful, to keep the fall tradition of girls' basketball season after it was switched to winter.

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